Beautiful dreamer, wake unto me,
Starlight and dewdrops are waiting for thee.
Sounds of the rude world, heard in the day,
Lulled by the moonlight have all passed away.
—Stephen C. Foster, “Beautiful Dreamer,” 1865
Last week, the collegiate members of Alpha Chi Omega lost out big time. Had the stars been properly aligned, my wife Cheri, a would-be philanthropist (and Alpha Chi CEO), would have endowed the organization’s leadership-training program forever and ever.
Indiana University also suffered a loss—and I’m not talking basketball. Instead of selling me naming rights so the College of Arts and Sciences or the School of Journalism could stand as tall as the Kelley, Jacobs, Maurer and McKinney schools, they’re stuck with a mere visiting professor who will work for benefits.
The Indiana Repertory Theatre took a tragic turn, too. Had all gone according to the script, Cheri and I would have doubled the theater’s endowment, ensuring insightful drama and uproarious comedy for generations to come.
But alas, things didn’t go as planned, so people most in need of human services will have to go on needing.
So will polar bears, whose lives are at risk in the unfrozen north.
Lonely dogs and cats, hoping to be adopted at the Humane Society, will have to whimper and mew a little longer.
Scientists and physicians seeking cures for cancer will have to continue on their distracting and never-ending quest for research funding.
President Obama, members of Congress and the Supreme Court will have to keep wrangling over who pays for health care.
Real estate agents from Asheville to Santa Fe, Jackson Hole to Grace Bay are stuck with pithy commissions from other customers.
And everyone up and down our family tree will have to carry on in their self-sufficient ways.
As the lead couple sings in “Rocky Horror Picture Show:” “Dammit, Janet.”
If only Cheri and I had won Mega Millions. If only we could have set ourselves up for life. If only we could have saved the world by giving some away.
But alas, it’s almost April 15, so a new delusion ensues.
In my mother’s great tradition, we will carry forth a dream in which all of our state and federal tax dollars go to those things that matter most to us and none of those things we deem offensive or wasteful.
Our donor-designated dream begins by dimming the lights and cuing up Woody Guthrie:
This land is your land, this land is my land,
From California to the New York Island,
From the Redwood Forest
To the Gulf Stream waters,
This land was made for you and me.
Now think Yellowstone and Yosemite. Denali and the Smokies. Glaciers in Montana. Volcanoes in Hawaii. The Rockies in Colorado. The sands of Cape Cod.
In our dreams, our tax dollars fund more and better national parks.
In our dreams, our tax dollars buy the best education system in the world— preschool to PhD—so that future generations of Americans can out-compete everyone (and support us in our nursing homes, too!)
In our dreams, our tax dollars support a health-care system available to and funded by all of us, because that is the fairest way to serve each of us.
In our dreams, our tax dollars buy good, safe, well-maintained transportation systems (not just cars and highways).
In our dreams, our tax dollars ensure cleaner air—indoors and out. As the American Lung Association says, “When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters.”
In our dreams, our tax dollars protect and preserve the planet, for without it, we cannot sustain life.
In our dreams, our tax dollars keep us safe at home and abroad, but they’re not available for picking fights or exacting personal revenge.
In our dreams, our tax dollars help everyone—not just the rich—get richer.
In our dreams, our tax dollars support public policies that treat everyone equally without regard to race, gender, faith, sexual orientation, etc. In other words, our tax dollars make good on the Founding Fathers’ assertion that all of us are created equal.
In the midst of Mega Millions mania, statisticians were telling would-be bettors (including Cheri and me) that the odds of winning the big jackpot were far lower than the odds of being struck by lighting.
I suppose the odds of having our tax dollars allotted Burger King style (“Have it your way.”) are even worse.
But hey, a couple can dream.•
Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.